Pop phenomenon

Ahead of K-Pop boy­band BTS’ per­for­mance at the Bill­board Mu­sic Awards tonight, tabloid! ex­plains how these seven singers have cap­tured the at­ten­tion of so many around the world

Gulf News - - Tabloid! - By Sa­mar Khouri, Spe­cial to tabloid! Photos by Rex Fea­tures

South Korean boy band BTS may seem like most other K-Pop groups with multi-coloured hair, flaw­less com­plex­ions, colour-co­or­di­nated out­fits and charis­matic visu­als.

How­ever, un­der­neath the per­fectly-pack­aged group of seven is a ris­ing act break­ing the mould in the highly man­u­fac­tured K-Pop in­dus­try, turn­ing them into house­hold names.

Much to the sur­prise of many, BTS, an acro­nym for Bang­tan Sonyeon­dan, which loosely trans­lates to Bul­let­proof Boy Scouts or their re­branded English name Beyond The Scene, made his­tory by be­com­ing the first K-Pop boy group to per­form at the 2017 Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards, where they put on a mind­blow­ing per­for­mance of their pop­u­lar Korean track DNA from their fifth record-break­ing and award-win­ning EP, Love Your­self: Her.

Their col­lab­o­ra­tion with rap­per De­si­igner and DJ and pro­ducer Steve Aoki for a remix of BTS’s song Mic Drop jumped to No 1 on the World Dig­i­tal Song Sales chart and de­buted at No 28 on Bill­board’s Hot 100 chart for nine weeks, mak­ing them the high­estchart­ing K-Pop group.

Last week, the group an­nounced their Love Your­self world tour and shared dates for shows in 11 cities through­out Asia, North Amer­ica, and Europe. More dates and cities are ex­pected to be an­nounced. The group will be­come the first K-Pop group to per­form at the Bill­board Mu­sic Awards tonight in Las Vegas, where they are nom­i­nated again for the Top So­cial Artist award (they won last year).

BTS is not only mak­ing his­tory by re­cently be­com­ing the first K-Pop group to have both tracks Mic Drop (remix) and DNA cer­ti­fied gold by the Record­ing In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, they are also do­ing it with their ap­pear­ances on pop­u­lar Amer­i­can TV shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Late Show with James Cor­den, Jimmy Kim­mel Live! and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2018 with Ryan Seacrest and rank­ings on the Bill­board charts, all of which prove that they’re ar­guably the hottest K-Pop act around.

Un­like Psy’s 2012 megahit song Gang­nam Style, Ad­min Kim, head of UAE’s main BTS fan­dom ac­count, BTS UAE, be­lieves that the chart-top­ping K-Pop group is “not a vi­ral artist that had one catchy song that trended world­wide”.

“Peo­ple might eas­ily dub them as just a trend­ing topic that’ll pass by or some hyped up boy band but I think that is not the case,” she adds.

BTS didn’t emerge un­der the three big agen­cies that dom­i­nate the in­dus­try — SM En­ter­tain­ment, JYP En­ter­tain­ment and YG En­ter­tain­ment. They de­buted un­der a rel­a­tively small record la­bel and man­age­ment agency, Big Hit En­ter­tain­ment.

Be­fore be­ing re­cruited, rap­pers Suga and RM and dancer J-Hope were all part of the un­der­ground scene, while Jimin was a top stu­dent in modern dance. V wasn’t think­ing of au­di­tion­ing un­til he was en­cour­aged by one of Big Hit’s rookie groups.

Jin, who is the old­est mem­ber of BTS, was ta­lent-spot­ted while at­tend­ing univer­sity. The last of the seven

band mem­bers, Jungkook, had failed to ad­vance in a pop­u­lar singing com­pe­ti­tion, Su­per­star K3. He sub­se­quently re­jected of­fers from seven ma­jor mu­sic la­bels to be­come BTS’s youngest mem­ber, be­cause he thought RM was “so cool”.

When they of­fi­cially de­buted in 2013, they were called “dirt-poor idols”, re­flect­ing their non-tra­di­tional path­way, but quickly proved their worth through their mu­sic by tack­ling head-on con­tro­ver­sial and per­sonal top­ics, which makes the group a stand­out among the genre.

“They’ve sur­passed the lan­guage bar­rier and the usual love con­cept in the mu­sic in­dus­try and went for top­ics we all re­late to,” says Fad­hela Ma­nar Mez­maz, a den­tistry col­lege stu­dent and ad­min of Al­ge­ria’s main BTS Twit­ter fan base, BTS Al­ge­ria.

Twenty-year-old univer­sity stu­dent, Erij Raach, who is the creator of Tu­nisian-based BTS fan ac­count, BTS Tu­nisia, says that their so­cially con­scious lyrics is “the most im­por­tant fac­tor” that made her a huge fan.

“They are that band that makes you find the real ‘you’ through their mu­sic,” Raach adds.

For some fans, BTS’ mu­sic changed their lives.

“I went through a hard time a year ago,” says Bel­hadef Nora, Al­ge­ri­an­based pri­mary school teacher and an ad­min of BTS Al­ge­ria. “I lost hope in life and al­most fell in dark­ness but their mu­sic saved me and made me a strong per­son. Thanks to them I can now face the world with­out any fear. They just taught me how to be true to my­self how to love my­self.”

Twenty-two-year-old Maha Rkhissi, a col­lege stu­dent and ad­min for Morocco-based fan Twit­ter ac­count, BTS Morocco, said that BTS’ mu­sic has also helped her through de­pres­sion, es­pe­cially their Most Beau­ti­ful Mo­ment in Life al­bum, as it deals with “men­tal health and a lot of other youth is­sues”.

“I feel like their mu­sic has a pur­pose, it is not just bub­bly pop to jam to,” says Rkhissi.

Each of the seven mem­bers, in par­tic­u­lar Suga, J-Hope and RM, are more cre­atively in­volved in com­pos­ing lyrics and pro­duc­ing their per­fectly dis­tinct dance, hip-hop and EDM-in­fused sound that goes along with their syn­chro­nised chore­og­ra­phy.

Part of the septet’s ap­peal is that they give fans an in­ti­mate ac­cess of them en­ter­tain­ing them­selves back­stage, re­act­ing to their own mu­sic videos, open­ing up about their wor­ries and thoughts and much more, through their V Live chan­nel and their

Bang­tan Bomb web videos. They are also known for their pres­ence on so­cial me­dia ever since their pre-de­but days. Twit­ter un­veiled its 2017 year-end roundup, re­veal­ing that BTS is the most tweet­ed­about mu­sic artist in the US and the most tweeted celebrity glob­ally. They even earned a spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edi­tion for most Twit­ter en­gage­ments for a male mu­sic group.

Up against pop­u­lar Amer­i­can artists at last year’s Bill­board awards, where they were crowned Top So­cial Artist in the fan-voted cat­e­gory, ded­i­cated fans, who go by Army — Adorable Rep­re­sen­ta­tive MC for

Youth — sup­ported and proved their ad­mi­ra­tion for BTS by tweet­ing #BTSBBMAS more than 300 mil­lion times.

“We cre­ate ac­counts and do mass votes to­gether with our fel­low Army around the world with our blood sweat and tears be­cause we con­sider them as friends more than artists we are fan of,” says Walaa Abd Elatti Mo­ham­mad Nour, 28-year-old Su­danese Army mem­ber from S. O. A, Su­dan’s main BTS Twit­ter fan ac­count.

It’s a de­vo­tion that the band is patently aware of, never for­get­ting to thank Army when col­lect­ing their awards.

“They know ex­actly how to in­ter­act with fans and make us feel like a close fam­ily,” says 21-yearold Tu­nisian univer­sity stu­dent Amel Kadri from BTS Tu­nisia.

They might be conquering the US mu­sic charts but BTS has also reached fans’ hearts in the Mid­dle East. The UAE iTunes store and Ang­hami both re­leased the best-sell­ing al­bum Love Your­self: Her and Mic Drop remix on­line, which in re­turn has made them the first and only K-Pop group to sur­pass more than 14 mil­lion plays on Mena’s largest mu­sic plat­form.

Not only has their hit sin­gle DNA been played on Vir­gin Ra­dio Dubai and Ra­dio 1 UAE af­ter mass re­quest by fans but also their Mic Drop remix track “has been chart­ing daily on Vir­gin Ra­dio Dubai’s top hits in the whole coun­try”.

“Their com­pany Big

Hit En­ter­tain­ment also shared the news, which men­tioned that UAE is one of the 10 coun­tries around the world with their new track Crys­tal Snow as the No 1 song on the iTunes chart,” says Kim from BTS UAE.

Af­ter the re­lease of their al­bum, BTS en­tered a two-year part­ner­ship with United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (Unicef) on a cam­paign called Love My­self to #ENDVi­o­lence against chil­dren and teenagers.

BTS went on to win Artist of the Year at the 2017 Mnet Asian Mu­sic Awards for the sec­ond-year in a row as well as Dae­sang or Grand Prize awards at this year’s Seoul Mu­sic Awards and Golden Disc Awards and many more awards.

With all their ac­com­plish­ments and phil­an­thropic work, 21-year-old Heba Emad, who solely runs a fan ac­count, Egyp­tian Army, in Egypt, says that this is only the start.

“BTS still have a lot to show, more awards to win, more records to break, more hearts to steal, and more con­certs to hold,” she says.

Rex Fea­tures

BTS — (top from left) J-Hope, RM, Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, (bot­tom) Suga and V.

BTS’ Jungkook, Jimin, V, Suga, Jin, J-Hope and Rap Mon­ster at the Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards in 2017.

The band per­form­ing Mu­sic at the Amer­i­can Awards last year.

Bill­board Mu­sic the BTS at 2017. Awards in

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